One of the capital’s leading public-relations firms is suing the parents of Eric Brody, the Broward County man left brain-damaged and paralyzed after a speeding deputy who was late for work rammed into his car.
Sachs Media Group filed suit last week in Leon County circuit court, seeking $375,000 in unpaid PR services, according to court filings.
The complaint is against Brody’s guardianship, the legal entity responsible for decision-making related to his care.
Company president Ron Sachs agreed to hold off on getting paid until the Legislature passed a claim bill awarding Brody, a high school senior at the time, compensation for his 1998 injuries.
Sachs started providing PR help to the Brody family in late 2008; after several attempts, Brody’s $10.75 million claim bill passed in 2012.
Sachs then billed the Brodys in October of that year – to no avail.
Florida law limits local governments to paying up to $200,000 in damages unless lawmakers pass a claim bill for any extra money.
Fairmont Insurance Co., the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, fought against the claim bill for years.
The complaint says Sachs’ team “did substantial work to enhance public awareness and elected-official awareness” about Brody’s plight, including work that resulted in “newspaper articles, TV and radio reports, news conferences, special events, editorials (and) significant social media.”
Further, Brody’s lawyer and lobbyist said Sachs’ “long-term dedication to the cause through tireless work was … ultimately essential to the claim bill’s passage,” according to the complaint.
The claim bill, however, says, “No part of the amount awarded under this act may be used toward the payment of attorney fees, lobbying fees, costs, or other similar expenses incurred on behalf of the Guardianship of Eric Brody in pursuit of this claim or the related underlying litigation.”
Sachs’ complaint argues that that limiting language doesn’t cover his firm’s work.
Lance Block, the Tallahassee attorney who shepherded Brody’s claim bill to passage, could not be reached Monday at his office. He had agreed to waive his fees to assure the bill’s passage.
Sachs, a spokesman for the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, went on to become a public-relations powerhouse, representing major corporations, nonprofits and state agencies in Florida.
He told the Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau he will provide a statement later Monday. We’ll update this post when we receive it.
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Update as of 5 p.m.: Here’s Sachs’ statement in its entirety:
“Sachs Media Group has been dedicated to getting justice for Eric Brody since December 2008, and our firm has worked tirelessly for Eric’s benefit. Our agreement with the Brody family provided for our firm to receive compensation only if a claims bill was approved. That legislation was passed in 2012.
“We worked closely with the Brody family every step of the way, embracing their cause and opening our hearts and our resources to winning justice for Eric Brody. Through countless hours of tireless service to Eric and his family, we cared for them and treated them like our own. Our work kept the claims bill alive for several years until it finally won legislative approval.
“While we delayed receiving compensation for our professional services, we did not waive it. Our firm attempted to reach an amicable resolution with the Brody family, but unfortunately we could not reach an agreement. We were left with no option but to seek resolution in court, and this is not an action we take lightly.
“We’re proud of the work we did to provide justice for Eric and hope that we can resolve this matter in the same spirit in which we worked together for so many years.”
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Updated, 5:30 p.m.: A Political Fix Florida reader recalled this post from last year in which Alia Faraj-Johnson, then the executive vice president of Sachs Media Group, gave an interview with SaintPetersBlog’s Peter Schorsch.
Schorsch asks, “During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client?”
Faraj-Johnson’s answer: “Eric Brody.”
The expression “pro bono” is short for the Latin “pro bono publico,” meaning for the public good.
Often used by lawyers, it denotes work done without pay, usually for a needy client.
A Sachs representative said Faraj-Johnson, now with Hill & Knowlton, “misspoke” in the interview. She couldn’t be immediately reached late Monday.